In a November 13 test, SpaceX successfully tried out the thrusters of its crewed spacecraft, Crew Dragon. The thrusters are part of the craft’s in-flight abort system. The successful test comes just seven months after a capsule was destroyed during a similar test done in May.
The Crew Dragon is fitted with SuperDraco thrusters, which were tested at the Cape Canaveral station in Florida at about 2000hrs GMT. In a statement released on Twitter, the company stated that the launch escape system had successfully undergone a full static fire test, whose results are currently being reviewed by its scientists and NASA.
In the tweet, the company further declared that both its developmental teams and NASA are working towards launching on an in-flight abort test of the Crew Dragon to be done after the review of the data is completed.
NASA described the test in a separate statement, saying that in about nine seconds, all the eight SuperDraco engines on the craft were fired. The craft was also fitted with 16 smaller Draco thrusters, two out of which NASA says fired for a second twice just before the other engines fired. The flaps protecting the thrusters shut after the SuperDraco engines were closed down. Two Draco thrusters were then fired, simulating the reentry procedure of the capsule.
The static fire test is a prerequisite for the in-flight abort test. In the IFA, the Crew Dragon is expected to jettison from a Falcon 9 rocket 90 seconds after lifting off. The test will be done at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to ascertain the craft’s ability to return astronauts to earth safely in case of a flight anomaly.
The craft that was tested was initially designed for a crewed test mission to the ISS, Demo-2, and will also be used for the in-flight abortion test. A different Crew Dragon spaceship will be used for the Demo-2 mission set to occur in 2020. Kathy Lueders, commercial crew program manager at NASA, reported that although the SpaceX development and testing timetable was behind by about six months, the test was an impressive turnaround.
Lueders also hinted that SpaceX is scheduled to perform the in-flight abortion in early December. Both NASA and SpaceX have not verified the schedule for the IFA or another static fire test yet, however, with NASA maintaining that the data from the test is now under review and a target date for the IFA will be released after the review is completed.
This post was originally published on Food and Beverage Herald